Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11, ESV)
In this passage of Scripture, Paul and Silas are fresh off of being rejected by a group of people in a place called Thessalonica. There was some jealousy behind much of the rebellion, according to Acts 17:5. It got kind of ugly, actually. If you want to read through Acts 17:1-9, you will see what I mean.
Paul and Silas left Thessalonica at night, to protect themselves by the cover of darkness from the angry mob that wanted to make false accusations against them. They moved on to a place called Berea.
As Paul and Silas shared Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Bereans were kind enough to sit and listen. They did this, even though they were skeptical. They weren’t sure that what they were hearing was actually true. Instead of berating Paul and Silas because they were teaching something different, they chose to spend time with Paul and Silas daily. They read and examined to see if their words agreed with what Scripture said. Many of the Bereans discovered that Paul and Silas were telling the truth, and they became believers.
A segment of the group in Thessalonica rejected Paul and Silas without truly listening to them with an open mind and heart. They jumped to accusations and did everything they could to discredit them and shut them up. The majority of Bereans were “more noble”, showing fine personal qualities such as a listening ear and putting forth the effort and time to get to know Paul and Silas while working together through Scriptures to find the truth. If they had not listened, they would not have discovered the truth.
Be kind and listen in order to remove our blinders, connect with others, and discover truth.
We are often approached by others (in person, through commercials on TV, while listening to sermons, etc.) who are telling us something they believe to be true (or at least they claim to believe it). Some are speaking truth like Paul and Silas, while others are not. Either way, it is good for us to listen and examine what is being said in order to discern whether it is true or not.
First of all, it is good to be kind to others rather than jump to conclusions that are likely to be influenced by our own personal prejudices and other issues (like the Thessalonians who allowed their jealousy to drive their actions). We are often blind to our own biases that cause us to see things and people incorrectly. To take the blinders off, we must acknowledge to ourselves that this is true of us. We DO have biases that God is working to correct in our hearts.
Second, it is good to listen in order to get to know people. Even if we find that we disagree on some things, we might be able to find a new friend that we enjoy spending time with. We don’t have to agree with each other in order to be kind to, learn from, and enjoy each other.
Telling others they are wrong is not the best way to identify truth for us or them.
The Thessalonians were pretty quick to paint Paul and Silas as liars and troublemakers. When we encounter others that we disagree with, the quickest way to end any chance of real dialogue is to put up our defenses and tell them they are wrong. We must care for, listen to, and connect with others, not just to share truth with them.
Despite what we might think, we are not always right. To find truth, we need relationships with others that produce authentic conversations. I believe this is what happened with the Bereans, Paul, and Silas. They spent time together, and allowed the truth to shine through their conversations over Scriptures. I believe there were likely more questions asked than authoritative statements condemning what the others were saying. Questions are good and they open up dialogue.
Humility leads to kindness and questions.
Humility produces kindness and spurs us towards asking others questions when they present something in opposition to what we believe to be right. Believing we are always right is a self-righteous trait that produces condemning words and actions towards each other. When we are quick to point out how wrong we think others are, we remain stuck where we are. We fail to embrace and share grace (which is the very core of the Gospel).
We grow when we say let down our guard and have a willingness to learn. We may reaffirm what we already know, or we might find we need to reject something we thought was right and replace it with a newfound truth. More importantly, we may wind up with a connection with someone who we truly enjoy being around. God is relational. When we find ourselves forsaking those things that build relationships, we have lost sight of what’s truly important.
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